Sunday, August 31, 2008

Caption This 86

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

The scene: I was on my way home from a quiet, early morning photo-walk. Crossing a bridge over one of the small tributaries that define this peaceful oasis within an otherwise busy suburb, I stopped to take in the scene by the water. As I leaned over the railing, I noticed this odd scene evolving below me. Didn't look like a dog...because it was a cat.

I have no words for this picture. I hope you do.

Your turn: Please come up with a funny or otherwise memorable caption for this photo. Enter as often as you wish. Pull in anyone you think might be amused by this weekly diversion. I'll announce the winner next week. For more background on how Caption This works, click here to go back to where it all began. As this is a water-themed photo, click here for this week's Thematic Photographic madness.

About last week's photo of my son in the grocery store: I never miss an opportunity to capture our kids with my camera. They're growing so fast that I feel I'll miss something if I don't keep the Nikon with me at all times. Even a ho hum trip to the grocery store is fertile photographic ground. Many of you got the zeitgeist of this week's photo, and I'm pleased to share the following Honorable Menschens:
  • Barb: "Pick me! Pick me!" (shades of Eddie Murphy's Donkey character in Shrek.)
  • Heidi: "Freedom of choice." (so poignant in this season of disputed Olympics and elections)
  • Robin: "As far as the aisle, can see." (No one does lyrical as well as Robin)
  • Awareness: "Kellogg Jungle." (Because that's exactly what this place is...a jungle)
  • Beverly: "But I don't see any that I like." (She must have been reading my son's mind)
  • Sara: "The pursuit of happiness." (Speaks to that bubble of childhood I often write about)
  • Anne: "Where's 'special Z'?" (Loved the commercial-flecked cynicism of this one)
  • Lissa: "Hmmmm...I wonder how much I can grab and put into this cart before they notice..." (Lissa's been shopping with me before. She knows)
Jacie takes it this week with "Sugar rush". Please drop by her blog to share a word or two of congratulations - and feel free to hang around and enjoy her delightful perspectives of motherhood in the UK. I suspect you'll be hooked.

Hurricane Gustav sucks. Hanna sucks, too

It's hard to feel comfortable when people you know are living with a bullseye painted on the roof. Up here in the Great White North, I'm far, far away from the chaos that's about to descend on the U.S. Gulf Coast, but I find myself churning a lot of stomach acid regardless.

I pray the lessons of Katrina have been learned as New Orleans shuts down and empties out. I pray the forces of community, charity and empathy prevail over the forces of selfishness and criminal intent in the days and weeks ahead. Folks who have endured so much deserve to have a little humanity this time around.

Your turn: If you know someone in the hurricane zone, please take this opportunity to reach out and share a kind thought. Even small gestures matter at times like this.

One more thing: Thought I'd include some helpful - and frankly very geeky-cool - storm tracking links. Sometimes, data brings a little bit of comfort.
If you're aware of any other useful resources, sites, widgets, apps, whatever, feel free to leave a comment. I'll add to this entry if I receive more.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In my wake

Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

You never quite know what you're going to get when you shoot an unpredictable subject. Perversely, this brings me comfort. Predictable is just a little too, I don't know, boring.

Agree? Disagree?

Your turn: Have you shared your watery-themed photo as part of this week's Thematic Photographic? Head on over here if you want to dive in (sorry, couldn't resist the pun.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

A sail before dinner

Life by the water (...continuing this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Go here to learn more.)
Toronto, ON, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Sometimes, you're on the ideal side of the plane when the winds blow in such a way that you have to loop over Toronto's downtown core on final approach. Oh, and a beautiful day punctuated by perfect, late afternoon sun doesn't hurt, either.

And when that happens, I hope you'll pull out your camera and record the scene, too.

Whenever I'm away, I try to bring home shareable moments for our kids. I want them to know what it was like for me to be where I was. I use pictures to tell stories of my trip, to involve them in the adventure. This latest trip to San Francisco was no different.

What jumped out at me as I tried to capture a shareable memory of an eye opening moment was how many boats were out in the harbor. It was 6:07 p.m., and the workday was transitioning quickly into a perfect July evening. This city, so often maligned for being cold and soulless, seemed to be anything but from where I sat. Loads of people were out on the water not because they were going somewhere, but because they were content to just drink in an obviously perfect day.

I thought the kids would like it. And they did. I hope you do, too.

Your turn: A perfect summer's day. Please discuss.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ice, ice, baby

Micro solution to global warming
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to embiggen]
Quick note: This photo supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, watery. Please click here to add to the growing party. I promise you'll have fun. (And if you're captionally inclined, head on over here for the latest Caption This.)
I'm guilty of pulling the camera out at the most inopportune moments. Well, opportune from an artistic perspective, but not so much when you're busy doing something else. Like corralling children, keeping up with your wife, or otherwise trying to avoid getting lost.

An interesting truth has emerged: For every time I attempt to shoot at a really inconvenient time, I usually end up with something on the memory card that I really like. Maybe it's because I don't have a lot of time to play with settings or ponder alternatives. I'm forced to quickly compose, set up, and shoot. No mucking around. It's like writing on deadline in that the words seem to flow better when I'm pressed than when I have all the time in the world.

I have to ponder that one a little more. For now, I hope you'll enjoy this shot.

Your turn: If you're mulling over ideas for your Thematic Photographic submission, I hope you'll consider exploring the alternative forms of water. What might those be? Do tell...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thematic Photographic 13 - Watery

Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

It's hard to imagine what's more important than water. Our bodies are made mostly from it. We need to drink it fairly regularly to stay healthy. Our plants won't grow without it. So for this week's Thematic Photographic theme, I'd like to focus on - say it with me - water. I know you'll find new and exciting ways to share photos of the most critical resource on the planet.

Here's a quick primer on how Thematic Photographic works:
  1. Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...watery.
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. You may post one per day, many per day, one each day of the entire week, whatever suits your fancy. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I want this thing to being photographic happiness to lots of people - and I need your help.
Your turn: I'll stop yakking and will have things over to you for some Thematic Photographic goodness. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Good morning, sunshine

Brilliant petals
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to embiggen]
About this pic: This is the last photo in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, colorful. I'll be posting a new TP theme later Wednesday evening (mark your calendars now!) For now, feel free to click back if you'd like to share a colorful photo.
Nature has am amazing way of painting a scene - no paintbrush required. I was on an early morning walk when I came across these petals soaking in the brilliant rising sun.

I didn't have a tripod and I had to carefully make my way into a public flowerbed to get close - much to the amusement of passers-by - but in the end it paid off in a picture that will always take me back to a small slice of time when life was peaceful and perfectly laid out in front of me.

Your turn: How is it that color has such power to change our mood?

I think I talk too much

The phone's been ringing off the hook in recent weeks as journalists from seemingly everywhere call for background, context and explanation of all sorts of tech-related issues. Here's a roundup of some of the more notable ones:
Finally (sorry, I've been busy), I've had another article published in Processor's August 22nd edition: Chain Of Command: CIO Succession Planning Is More Than A One-Time Deal.

More to come...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another look at Enzo's creation

Not-so-simple details...
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to embiggen]
About this photo: We're continuing our weekly Thematic Photographic theme, colorful. Click here if you'd like to jump on the TP bandwagon and share your own colorful photo or link. Click here for the latest Caption This entry.
The Ferrari Testarossa is about as full-blooded a sports car as you'll ever see. You don't even have to be a gearhead to realize it's special - it has a presence that makes even this dimly-lit concrete parking garage come alive in its presence.

I first shared images of this car last year (here) and was pleased that it was still there when we returned. The kids were chomping at the bit to get outside and play, so I crouched down and did the best I could in the barely-adequate light.

Your turn: I find simple, basic color to be the most memorable. Why is that?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Caption This 85

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

The scene: We've come to the supermarket here to pick up a few necessities. Zayda (grandfather) pushes the cart while Noah rides along. It's been a while since I took pictures in a supermarket, but I figure I don't live here, so it wouldn't be overly inconvenient if they kicked me out. As we turn down the cereal aisle, I realize just how busy this environment is, how the designs and colors seem to fight each other for our attention - not to mention the attention of an increasingly media-savvy 8-year-old boy.

He doesn't ask for a thing as we slowly roll down this riotous kill zone of commercialism. We soon leave the fluorescent-bathed color behind as we head home to put the groceries away and rest our eyes.

No one even noticed my camera.

Your turn: Please come up with a caption for this image. Click the Comment link below and go to town. Feel free to suggest as many as you'd like, and don't be afraid to pull your friends, neighbors and colleagues in as you see fit. We actively encourage promiscuous captioning, as you know. (This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, colorful. Have you played TP yet? No? Why, you absolutely must! Click here to begin.)

About last week's image of a semi-trailer that's well past its prime: I could hear the silence as I captured this photo, and every time I look at it, even 2+ years after I shot it, I still do. You all clearly heard something as you suggested a range of very strong captions. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Jacie: "Rust never sleeps."
  • Sara: "Been there done that."
  • Linda: "Contents no longer shift during movement."
  • Anne: "Tired."
  • Mojo: "I don't know when that road turned on to the road I'm on."
  • Awareness: "A Road Less Travelled."
  • Dan: My haulin' days are over/I'm no longer in tow/They didn't want me at the truck stop/But there's always room in Jellico
  • Robin: "Truck stopped."
And the winner, Carmi? For the first time in Caption This history, we have a tie. Barb and Moi both suggested "Rust in peace." And since I moderate comments and neither had seen the other's submission, they both take the crown. How cool is that! Their respective blogs, Picture this, at last and Not By A Long Shot are delightfully full of unique perspectives on life and photography. If you haven't read them, please remedy that soon - and kindly drop them a congratulatory line as well.

One more thing: I don't say "thank you" to you all enough for making Written Inc.'s weekly challenges, Caption This and Thematic Photographic, the successes that they are. Please know that I deeply appreciate the spirit with which you all participate. None of this would be anywhere near as much fun as it is were it not for your enthusiasm and drive. Thank you so much.

Written Inc. makes the newspaper...

...sort of.

Dan Brown works for the London Free Press, our burg's daily paper. He occasionally writes the editorial for the paper. And this past Thursday, he chose to write about the state of blogging in London. The piece was entitled Blogs blossom in Forest City.

Long story short, someone named John Leschinski decided to rate London blogs. Dan congratulated him, but said he missed out on some good blogs, including...mine! Here's the snippet:
One can disagree with Leschinski's conclusions. He certainly did not provide a comprehensive catalogue of all the noteworthy London blogs, leaving out such ones as Phronk and Written Inc.

But let's all hope his analysis sparks a larger discussion.
How cool is that? My little blog making the big-print, center-page editorial of a daily paper. Okay, it won't bring me any closer to retirement, but it's a nice mention all the same. Thanks, Dan. Based on the comments on both your and Mr. Leschinski's sites, you definitely kickstarted that larger discussion.

And thanks to my friend Laurie for letting me know it was there. I often let papers stack for days before I catch up. Her e-mail sent me scurrying for the Thursday edition.

BTW, Dan's blog, Cool Blog Name to Come, can be found here.

(Oops, almost forgot: I'll post the new Caption This later today. I'm spending some deliberate time away from technology today - the real live folks who make life joyous need my undivided attention more than my laptop does. Whatever you're doing today, I hope it's just as fulfilling!)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Colors at play

Planetary alignment
London, ON, June 2008
About this photo: Welcome to another entry in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, colorful. Got a colorful scene to share? Please click here to get started.
GM's Saturn brand has always billed itself as a different kind of car company. The auto afficionados among us can argue that point until time immemorial, but one can't dispute the organization's commitment to its surrounding communities. In recent years, local dealers have funded the installation of new playgrounds in every corner of the city.

Interestingly, the Saturn Playground philosophy is to install equipment that all children of all abilities can enjoy. Saturn Playgrounds encourage children to work together, which is a refreshing change from the usual apparatus found in a city playground.

Their latest one popped up in a neighborhood that very much needs a shot in the arm. Located just off of one of the city's most notorious and crime-ridden areas, almost forgotten by the high-speed traffic speeding by on Adelaide Street, it attracts kids and families who don't seem to have much color in their lives. As I strolled by on a sunny afternoon, I had to wait for knots of kids to clear before I could get this shot.

Your turn: Color that changes lives. Please discuss.

Writer for hire...

As I plot the next phase of my life as a writer and technological guru, I find myself looking for opportunities to flex my pen. Yes, folks, I'm whoring my blog to pick your brain and pursue freelance writing/contract gigs.

What do I write? Pretty much anything. I've become a techno-talking head in recent years, doling out advice on everything from picking the best cell phone plan to figuring out if Facebook makes sense for your company. I've begun writing for tech media again - see here for earlier post - and I'm looking for more. Tech media, mainstream media, new media, corporate writing...I'm flexible. If your company has a communication need, I can help.

Your turn: Any ideas? Geography isn't a limit: this is the Internet Age, after all. If words need to be strung together, I want to be the one wielding the string. If you'd rather e-mail than comment, find me at carmilevy AT gmail DOT com

(On the assumption that this admittedly unusual form of outreach works, it'll validate my belief that social media like blogs are rapidly evolving beyond their original status as hobbies. Real careers, apparently, are built on 'em. Hopefully mine, too. Thanks in advance for your thoughts and input!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Before its time

Early autumn?
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: It's 7:24 a.m. I've gone out for a morning walk to take pictures and spend a bit of alone time by the river that carves the landscape around my parents' and in-laws' neighborhood. I'm barely out the front door when a sliver of red invades my view. I stop dead in my tracks: can't's August! But sure enough, there it is, a single red leaf on the sidewalk, mocking my sense of schedule.

Yes, it's early. But I guess sometimes forlorn beauty just can't wait to show itself.

Your turn: We're getting colorful with this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Got a colorful photo to share? Click here to get into the photographic groove.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thematic Photographic 12 - Colorful

They melt in your mouth, not in your hand
London, ON, September 2007 [Click to embiggen]

It's been a fairly cruddy few days. Nothing earth-shattering, mind you. No one has died - not that I'm aware of, anyway - and I still have a roof over my head, an incredible wife, three great kids, a semi-psychotic dog and a constantly evolving ability to wield a pen and a camera. But sometimes the sine wave of life takes a bit of a curve southward and the best you can do is just hold on until it reverses course. Fun, isn't it?

As I look at my photography in recent weeks, I suspect I've been subconsciously reflecting this darkening mood in the photos I've uploaded. I've been shooting drug users, abandoned trailers, homeless people and decaying buildings. Well, for this week's Thematic Photographic theme, I'm going to try to jumpstart things with a somewhat happier theme: Colorful. (I hope you'll stop and take a moment to smile at the prospect. I'll wait.)

There, let's continue.

So whatever you share through the week, please make it colorful. You can take it literally, figuratively, or any way you see fit. I enjoy seeing how you all creatively interpret each theme, and I'm sure this week's choice will result in some great photo sharing.

If you're new to Thematic Photographic, here's a quick FAQ:
  1. Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...colorful.
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. You may post one per day, many per day, one each day of the entire week, whatever suits your fancy. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I want this thing to being photographic happiness to lots of people - and I need your help.
I'm not done: Caption This needs your love, too. Click here to visit this week's entry and share your submission.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Addicted

A modern tragedy
Montreal, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

The scene: I've just finished an appointment and am walking back to the Metro (subway) to head home. From across the street, I see someone sitting in the middle of an otherwise empty and run-down concrete plaza on a busy street corner just to the east of Montreal's downtown core. From afar, this person looks homeless. A couple of dogs wander around the dull gray landscape.

As I approach, I decide the dogs look sweetly out of place in this urban jungle. So I use my zoom to capture them from afar. The person - now clearly a she - has no idea I'm there.

Against my better judgment, I adjust my lens toward her and squeeze. The thought of a solitary, anonymous figure, ignored by everything around her seems to match this week's Thematic Photographic theme, poignant. I quietly retreat and continue on my way. So engrossed is she in whatever she's doing that she never looks up.

Only later, as I review the images on my camera's screen, do I realize what I've captured. As I was shooting, the sun was too bright for me to realistically assess the results. Now I see the stark reality: an addict shooting up in broad daylight, in full view of anyone who passes by.

I feel more than a little sick about it. But in the end I decide it's a scene that must be shared for a variety of reasons, the least of which as a reminder of how little separates the lives of the haves from the lives of the have nots.

Your turn: Do you find this jarring? Why? I'll post a new Thematic Photographic theme later on Wednesday evening. In the meantime, we're still taking poignant-themed submissions here.

Easy chair. Not-so-easy life.

Sitting by the dock of path?
Laval, QC, August 2008

I can think of a hundred different ways this chair came to be abandoned beside a bike path in the shadows of high-tension towers on a desolate stretch of road beside a major highway. I suppose you can, too.

Your turn: So? How did this chair get here? Feel free to let your imagination roam on this one.

About this photo: Taken at about 60 km/h as my father-in-law drove. He asked if I wanted him to slow down: I declined, figuring no picture was worth getting rear-ended. Still, 1/320th of a second was all it took. This photo continues this week's "poignant" Thematic Photographic theme. We wrap things up tomorrow before posting a new theme. It's not too late to share your own poignant view of the world. Just go here to get started. Caption This addicts - you know who you are - can click here, too. Or do both!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Look, Ma: Bylines!

It's been a while since I published something under my own name. As a journalist, I needed to change that. Sure, I chat with reporters often*, but writers need to write. So I wrote.

I've begun writing articles for You may recall that in my past life working for a research firm, I regularly wrote opinion pieces for this publication (see here, here, here and here for a few examples.) Well, now I write editorial for them. It's a freelance gig, and I'm actively pursuing others, too - suggestions most welcome...I can write pretty much anything. And well, apparently.
I've got more pieces in the pipeline, and will post links here as they go live. Hope you like 'em!

One more thing: Blogger's being bad tonight and not allowing me to upload a new photo - or any photo, for that matter. Which is too bad, because I had a seriously poignant one to share. I'll try again in the a.m. For now, click here if you haven't submitted your Thematic Photographic entry for this week yet, and here to join in this week's Caption This fun.

* I spoke with BNN's Andy Bell earlier today about the Google Android project, RIM's BlackBerry Bold and the evolving state of the smartphone market. Click here to load the video of the After Hours program, then drag the slider to about two-thirds in. Please don't laugh at my goofy head.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Caption This 84

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Jellico, TN, January 2006 [Click to enlarge]
Don't forget: This Caption This photo continues our weekly Thematic Photographic theme, poignant. Please go here after submitting your caption to see what the whole TP deal is all about. You'll be intrigued.
There's a quiet dignity in the way some objects of everyday life are left to decay where most of us will never find them. As if they deserve a little peace after years of being rung through the wringer.

I came across this rusting trailer in back of a combined gas station/fireworks shop in a tiny little town that's become an oddly traditional stop for us on on our way home from Florida (please see here and here for earlier entries from this place.) Tucked in the mountains near the Kentucky border, it's the kind of place that the world seems to have left behind. This scene, punctuated by complete silence that seemed as if it would never be broken, struck me as a poignant comment on what happens to the things we no longer need.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this image. It can be as funny or sad as you wish - as long as it's creative and as long as you have fun coming up with it. You may submit as many comments as you want - multiple-captioners are eligible for specialness. Click on the Comment link below to begin. Winner and new caption will be announced next week. For rules on how Caption This works, click here.

About last week's photo of a couple in a San Francisco public square: I loved this scene from the first moment I shot it. Obviously, you all did, too. I love when that happens! This week's very special Honorable Menschens include:
  • Barb: "Close encounters."
  • Steve: "The beginning of happily ever after."
  • Danny: "So close, and yet so far."
  • Mojo: "Stories are created on such nights."
  • Awareness: "Holding onto the present for one more moment."
  • Bernie: "Shades of grey."
  • Barbie2be: "Watching love."
Chad's "Modern love" marries the scene in a way that brings me right back to the moment I shot the image. If you haven't seen his excellent photography and accompanying writing, click here to visit his blog. I hope you'll send a kudo or two his way while you're there, as he just got engaged.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Michael Phelps wins his 8th gold medal

Not a whole lot to say about it: Just thought I'd mark the moment when Olympic history was made.

Go team! Congratulations, Mr. Phelps. You wear it well.

Table for two

San Francisco, CA, July 2008

You may think I'm a bit odd for making this observation, but I've always thought that freshly set tables at good restaurants seem to have a quiet grace about them. When the textures and light are just so, these temporary mini-scenes-where-life-happens seem to almost glow with potential. No one quite knows where the evening will end up. But for now, it's perfect.

And, yes, scenes like this have a poignancy (hey, that's this week's Thematic Photographic theme!) that stands in stark contrast to the mess that remains after the guests have left. It isn't a black and white progression, though. It's how the shades of gray present themselves between the time the two unseen diners arrive and the time they leave.

For now, the mind boggles with possibilities.

Your turn: What's in store for the folks who will occupy this table?

One more thing: A new Caption This post is headed our way later Sunday. We're still accepting entries for last week's photo. Click here to join in.

Friday, August 15, 2008

They grow up too fast

Finding comfort in the school yard
London, ON, June 2008 [Click to embiggen]
Admin note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, poignant. Please click here to get your own photo party started.
As the school year wound down into its final few days, I toted my camera to school each morning, waiting for the kind of moments that I knew wouldn't present themselves again in September. By then, he'd be bigger, in the next grade (3!) and he probably wouldn't need to carry his stuffed animal with him through the school yard.

The little boy in him seems to slip away incrementally each and every day. His voice is changing ever so slightly. He's taking on bigger books with more words and fewer pictures. Even the way he walked and carries himself is increasingly more like his older brother and less like the munchkin he's always been.

When he returns to school next month, the school yard will be new. The building he's always known as his no longer belongs to our school. It's been sold and is being renovated by its new owners. The crumbled asphalt where he honed his soccer skills and made his first bunch of friends will soon be paved over. University students will eventually park there, unaware of how this unassuming stretch of land helped turn our little boy into a bigger, more confident and capable one.

This experience reminds me that we leave imprints on all sorts of places as we continue our own journeys through life. They're not obvious - there isn't a plaque that announces this is where we learned to play champ, for example - but they're significant if we take the time to remember them.

I'm glad I did on this sunny late June morning. I hope he'll be glad when he's older and takes the time to read this.

Your turn: A place that mattered to your childhood. What made it special?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Get well soon, Zaidy

A grandson's wish
Montreal, QC, May 2008

This is a card our youngest son, Noah, made for my father when he was hospitalized for an extended period earlier this spring. As he carefully selected his colors and formed the words, he talked about how he knew that reading his card would make his Zaidy (grandfather) happy. His wish was so pure that I found myself blinking back tears.

He's sweet in a way that I can't quite describe: Pure of heart, always looking out for others before himself, filled with endless hugs and kisses because he knows they make people around him feel better. He genuinely felt that his card would have a similar effect.

I wish it could be so. But I figured we didn't have to have a discussion about the cold reality of his grandfather's health on that day. For a moment, at least, I wanted him to feel comfortable and secure in his bubble of childhood.

Your turn: The poignancy of childhood innocence. Please discuss.

One more thing: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, poignant. I hope you'll join in this time out. Please click here to get started.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thematic Photographic 11 - Poignant

When home is a bench
San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to enlarge]

We all come across scenes that make us a little bit sad, that may be kinda bittersweet, that make us stop and think, that change us in some small or not-so-small way. I'm hoping you'll turn the dimmers down a bit this week as we share photos that are poignant.

Here's how Thematic Photographic, my weekly strictly-for-fun photo challenge, works:
  1. Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...poignant.
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. You may post one per day, many per day, one each day of the entire week, whatever suits your fancy. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I want this thing to being photographic happiness to lots of people - and I need your help.
Thank you for making Thematic Photographic a highlight for so many people. I can't wait to see what you come up with for this week's rather differently-focused theme.

(And, yes, we're still pimping for Caption This entries. Click here to go there.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Little boxes

Ticky Tacky
Toronto, ON, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

You often miss patterns until you get far enough away - or high enough above - to see them from an entirely new perspective. As the Thematic Photographic pattern theme (see here for where it all began) rolls along, I find myself looking for patterns in everything I see. I try to stand in a different place, focus my eyes differently, force my brain to process it differently.

Why? Because life's just a little less precious when we let it all become routine.

Your turn: This photo resonates with me, as it keys off of the classic Malvina Reynolds tune, Little Boxes, (wiki entry, lyrics) that had some less-than-complimentary things to say about suburbia. What say you about suburbia?

Oops, before I forget: Have you shared your caption yet? It's not too late. Click here for endless fun. Maybe not endless. But fun nonetheless.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Windows on San Francisco

3 generations
San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to enlarge]

When you look up from any downtown street in any city of a certain size, you're bound to see a riot of intersecting shapes, colors, themes and stories. The pattern of this particular slice of San Francisco's urban landscape struck me as a neat illustration of how old and new always seem to end up as neighbors - whether they want to or not.

So, in honor of this week's Thematic Photographic theme - patterns - I'm pleased to share this multigenerational pattern of facades. Enjoy.

Your turn: If you'd like to dive into this week's TP fray, click here. To add your caption to the latest Caption This, head on over here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Caption This 83

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Quick note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, patterns. Please click here if you'd like to participate.
I'd like to share another image from my recent trip to San Fran. This one was taken from my hotel room window. I felt as if I was watching a little mini-play play out as this couple slowly came together from opposite sides of the square. I guess this makes me a bit of a voyeur.

But what would you call this photo? Stick with me...

Your turn: Please suggest a caption or a title for this photo. Use your imagination - the weirder, the better - and feel free to submit as many as you wish. I encourage promiscuous captioners!

About last week's photo of a homeless gentleman: I felt an immense sadness as soon as I took this photo. I could capture a scene with my lens, but I was powerless to actually do anything about it. Such is the limit of photography, I guess. So many of you shared very poignant captions, including these Honorable Menschens:
  • Barbie2be: "Trying to get by."
  • Judy: "No vehicles, and not much future."
  • Canadian Mark: "This looks like the bottom, it's all up from here."
  • Steve: "Broken-carted" and "Remains of the day."
  • Gordon: "Love me for who I am, not what you'd like me to be."
  • Terri: "Survivor: San Francisco."
  • Jacie: "Grace under pressure."
Awareness takes it this week with her very evocative "Seeking change." She's a fellow Canadian and a brilliant observer of life, whether through her lens or with her pen. Please drop by her blog and send your best...I promise you'll be hooked.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pages fade from memory

Yellow and white
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

About this photo: Another in this week's Thematic Photographic series on patterns. Please click here to share yours. We're also still taking captions for this week's Caption This entry (click here for that.) New one hits the blog tomorrow.
Technology is increasing the pace with which former staples of our lives disappear from our everyday existence. Already, I marvel at the things that were normal to a much younger me that our children will never know. Cassettes (ah, the mix tape), rotary dial phones, busy signals, the DOS command prompt and phone books merely scratch the surface of what we've lost.

So when I saw this phone directory in a phone booth (another soon-to-be goner, I suppose), I decided I should grab it photographically while I still could. Only after it sat in my archives for a few months did I realize the edge-on view makes for a pretty compelling pattern. Alas, it's still foreign to my kids - they'll just look it up online.

Your turn: Something that's either disappeared from our midst...or soon will. Please discuss.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Olympics suck

London, ON, June 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Okay, the Beijing Olympics don't suck. Much. But there's a whole lot of odious feeling surrounding the sanctioning body of the movement, the International Olympic Committee. The IOC makes the classic image of the old boy's club seem positively warm and fuzzy by comparison.

I'm all for international gatherings of sport and peace and endless kumbaya. I support the ideals of the Olympic movement, the aspirational halo that it equally casts over the have and have not nations of the world.

Where I have difficulty is how politicized and bastardized the process has become. The incestuous group that dictates who puts on the games continues to define new lows in international sport, from botching the response to the 1972 Munich massacre to its inconsistent response to rampant doping to its blatant shows of clubbiness, nepotism and favoritism within its ranks. Now it casts a blind eye while China tramples accesses for foreign journalists, sweeps aside the tens of thousands of workers who built the facilities (thanks very leave) and ignores the huge human costs associated with the games they awarded. We all saw this coming in 2001 when they chose Beijing. Way to go, IOC.

Were Baron Pierre de Coubertin alive today, he'd disown them all.

(And I haven't even begun to rant about NBC's so-called coverage of the games. If I ever need a definition for rampant jingoism, I only need to turn on the telly. You'd swear after watching one of their shows - tape-delayed, wouldn't ya know - that the only athletes competing in any event were American. Nice.)

About this picture: I was attending a decidedly more pure and simple sporting event in June. My daughter's school track meet at our local university stadium was wrapping up. As I headed home, I turned back and snapped this last view of the underside of the stands. It reminds me that sometimes, sports need only be about a little girl's big day out with her friends.

One more thing: This is another pattern picture as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Click here to dive into the fray.

Your turn: Olympics pro or con? Am I being too much of a curmudgeon here?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stripes on mirrored glass

Reflective facade
Toronto, ON
May 2008
[Click to embiggen]
If you're just joining us: This entry continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme - patterns - here at Written Inc. TP is a weekly activity that challenges you to pull out your camera or dig into your archives and share something that reflects this week's theme. It's a serious hoot. Really. Click here to jump into this week's theme or here to see all TP entries to-date.
The scene: Friday evening, 7:05, downtown Toronto. I'm just downstairs from the AM640 Toronto Radio studios, about to head inside for a live interview with John Downs. I've become a bit of a regular on the show, and as their resident tech guru I get to banter with John and an endless array of really cool callers. It's as immediate and vital as radio gets, and it's why I love this medium so.

As I always do before I do anything media-related, I pause for a second and focus on what comes next. I take moments like this because it helps me shift gears and get my brain in the game. I'm in a canyon of tall buildings, and the one across the street is particularly reflective. I decide I like the pattern, so I break out the camera and capture a few images before I head inside. More than a two-dimensional image of a building, I suspect I've captured another memorable moment in my weird and varied life.

Your turn: Quiet moments before you go live. Please discuss.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Thematic Photographic 10 - Patterns

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I like knowing what I'm getting into before I step out of the house in the morning. I'm not a huge fan of surprises. When I settle on foods, songs and experiences that, respectively, taste, sound and feel good to me, I tend to stick with them. Sure, I push my limits on occasion - usually when my wife encourages me to try something new. But I derive comfort from things that feel as natural as an old pair of sandals. So more often than not, I'll order without needing to look at the menu.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic Photographic theme. You guessed it: we're doing patterns this week. (Pause for a little cheer.) There always seems to be a story in the pattern. And it invites the eye in for a closer, lingering look. As you can see from the photo above, patterns often happen in the most ordinary places.

Your turn: Do you have a pattern-themed photo to share? Here's how Thematic Photographic works:
  1. Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...patterns!
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. You may post one per day, many per day, one each day of the entire week, whatever suits your fancy. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I want this thing to being photographic happiness to lots of people - and I need your help.
That's it for now...can't wait to see what you come up with this week!

Wordless Wednesday - Vanishing

Messages from yesterday
San Francisco, CA, July 2008

This week's Thematic Photographic theme has been signs, so I thought I'd finish off the week with this one from outside my hotel room window. Old brick facades often contain so many layers of history that it's hard to decipher them. Tough as it may be, I could have stood there for hours. trying.

I'll post a new Thematic Photographic entry and theme later Wednesday evening, so please drop back in for it. In the meantime, feel free to have fun with the current theme by clicking here.

Your turn: Care to take a shot at what this building might have experienced in the past?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Something gross, something weird

Perfectly named?
San Francisco, CA
July 2008

Often after I had pulled one of my typically boneheaded childhood capers, my mother would sigh that deep sigh that only mothers can. Then she'd whisper half under her breath that we lived in a nuthouse.

I didn't give it much thought until I happened across this place on our way back to the hotel after dinner. At that point, I had been up for closing in on 24 hours and the combined effects of flying across the continent, wonky time zones, lingering memories of Lucie the airport security lady and a growing headache were really starting to affect my artistic judgment.

Which is why as I walked past this storefront, I think I thought it was funnier than it likely was. Still, it must be a hoot when employees answer the phone, or explain to their dates where they work.

The Choose Juicy sign, on the other hand, merely made me want to hurl. I'm all for irreverence in advertising. I get that we're bombarded with messages from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. I appreciate that said messages are taking on increasingly creative forms to avoid fading into the background. I understand the advertiser's needs to stand out from the pack by sometimes pushing the envelope a little.

I'm a writer, after all. It's what I do, too, in a slightly different form.

But sometimes, a word or word combination just makes you want to go "ew". I realize this particular sign could be about Tropicana's latest product. But the connotation, the nudge-nudge wink-winkiness of it all just makes me wish I could get into Doc Brown's DeLorean for a bit and go back to a simpler time when the edges of the envelope weren't quite so out there for all to see.

All of this means, of course, that I've become an old curmudgeon, not entirely unlike the nasty neighbors who used to sit on their porches and scowl at us "noisy kids" as we played in the summer sun. Where's my lawn chair?

Your turn: Signs that push the bounds. Please discuss (and click here for more Thematic Photographic sign-themed insanity. Time's running out for this week's signs theme...I'll be posting the new theme tomorrow evening.

Monday, August 04, 2008

One hour photo - for now

Almost obsolete
San Francisco, CA, July 2008

I'm just old enough to remember photography in the pre-digital era. The process was as simple as it was time-honored:

First, you bought film. Then you took pictures oh so sparingly because this stuff was expensive. Then you took your precious film to the photo lab and waited for them to develop it. You'd fill in the envelope, slip the film inside, seal it carefully and then drop it in the box and wait. And wait. And wait some more. It usually took a week, sometimes more. Occasionally it would get lost. And when your phone rang with the good news that your film was back, you gleefully skipped back to the store to pick it up. More often than not, your trembling fingers would already have ripped the envelope open before you had gotten out of the store.

Ah, the good old days of photography.

Then along came one-hour processing. Because our emerging hurry-up-and-wait world lacked the patience to hold its breath for a week while film canisters made their way to and from distant labs. Oh sure, we could still get the old, slow processing if we really wanted it. But why bother when for a 50% price premium, we could have it almost now? A new industry was born. Fotomat became indelibly burned into 1970s culture - such as it was - and a whole slew of ever-faster service options began to litter the consumer landscape. Drive-through banking, anyone?

Digital has, of course, turned one-hour photo services into quaint reminders of the way things used to be. Sure, people still shoot film. And digital photographers continue to rely on stores for high-quality, ridiculously cheap prints. While it's possible to print them at home now, the per-page costs make trips to the Walgreens a necessity when it's time to turn those bits into something a little more physical.

So as I walked along a San Francisco street and saw this sign, I had to stop and wonder how long the sign would still be there. Did the term have any meaning for the teens and twentysomethings taking pictures with their cameraphones? I doubt it. I wonder how many other demographically iconic phrases are also heading for obsolescence.

Your turn: OK, I realize that last sentence really was a question. What other phrases, sayings, businesses, trademarks or whatever are going the way of the dodo? Things like full-service gas stations, record stores, free tell!

One more thing: The good folks here at Written Inc. continue to whore themselves limitlessly to boost participation in the two weekly extravaganzas, Caption This and Thematic Photographic. Hit the links to ensure you don't miss out.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Caption This 82

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Homelessness is often called America's national tragedy, a wound that despite society's best attempts to address it, continues to fester. The same thing applies here in Canada, of course, and sadly virtually everywhere on the planet. It's more than a problem without an apparent solution: It's something so many of us have stopped caring about. And that, in my singular opinion, is the larger tragedy.

I was walking along San Francisco's waterfront early on an oppressively gray morning, quickly capturing the mood of the place before I had to check out of the hotel and head to the airport. I had just walked through crowds of well-dressed commuters debarking from the ferry and making their way through the trendy/gorgeously restored Ferry Building and across the oh so tony Embarcadero. Now I was in the shadow of that amazing building, and the mood back here couldn't have been more different.

Homeless people moved quietly in pockets on this desolate stretch of asphalt beside the water. The foggy sky seemed to make everything look even more depressing than it was, but I got the sense that this was a pretty sad place to begin with. I suddenly felt very self conscious, concerned about what it looked like to be an obvious interloper pointing a relatively expensive camera into the lives of strangers who clearly didn't want this kind of attention.

I needn't have worried. Not one person here so much as looked in my direction. I shot quickly and quietly, and left as fast as I arrived.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this image. Feel free to share as many captions through the week as you wish - I actively encourage multiple submissions. Just click the comment link to get started. For the rules, click here.

About last week's image of the shepherd overlooking the bridge: Ironically, I shot these two images within seconds of each other. The photos that I took in that five-minute span in that forgotten stretch of pavement in the shadows of the rest of the city continue to haunt me weeks after I shot them.

As always, you rose to the challenge presented by a very darkly themed photo. Honorable menschens include:
  • Terri: "Bridge the gap."
  • Steve: "Not quite ready to cross over."
  • Robin: "But, how do you get ON the darned thing?"
  • John: "Crossing over will surely take a toll."
  • Bob-kat: "You mean I gotta pole vault over that!"
  • Barbie2be: ""Standing guard."
  • Me: "I am."
Truth be told, they all resonated with me, which made this a difficult choice. Jacie's "Who watches the watcher..." stood out, as this was a flash-thought that occurred to me as I took this image from behind the sculpture's shoulder. I wondered who had his back, too. Please drop in on Jacie and congratulate her for her thoughtful contribution. Thanks to everyone for being so perceptive yet again.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Of times gone by...

Visual history
San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to enlarge]

A sign is often the equivalent of an historical timestamp. One glimpse is enough to confirm when it first appeared. Beyond that, it tells, in a blink, a story of an era, a community and all the people who revolved around and within it. Colors, textures, word choices, architectures...they all seal the scene in our mind's eye.

I'm guessing this one's from at least 40 or 50 years back. And as I close my eyes and imagine what the streetscape looked like back then, I feel thankful that we have the ability to wonder about the life and times of places and people from long before we existed. Even on a trip far from home, it's a neat additional trip to take.

Your turn: We're still churning through signs as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme (please go here for more.) Would you mind sharing a thought on what Britex Fabrics might have been like when this sign was new? Go nuts!

One more thing: I'll be posting a new Caption This entry later tomorrow. The latest one is still up for grabs. Click here if you're feeling creative.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Signs of beauty

From across the street
San Francisco, CA, July 2008
Please note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, signs. Feel free to contribute as often as you wish: a photo a day gives us all that much more to enjoy. Click here to get started.
I captured this from a table in a bustling restaurant surrounded by a group of Canadian analysts and journalists. We had come here to cover Intel's launch of its new Centrino 2 platform, and after the event had concluded, our hosts were kind enough to take us to a restaurant I can only describe as divine.

As we waited for the food to arrive, I chatted with my newfound mates and found myself looking around at our ornate surroundings, trying to commit them to memory. These trips are always full of exploration on so many levels. You often meet folks you've seen on earlier trips. Some folks are always new to you. And others are folks who you've been working with over the phone or online, but have never actually met. It's a neat crucible of connectivity, and I always relish vendor trips for precisely this reason. It's often the connections made here that help drive future opportunity.

I pointed the lens out the window at the hilly streetscape. The light was fading fast, and I didn't have my tripod. Belay that: I had a tripod. But it would have been reeeeeally gauche to pull it out and set up shop. Taking the very occasional quick picture was as far as I was willing to go.

The light called out to me. I love neon, especially when it paints the surrounding surface with its unique, softly colored light. The focused light on the salon sign below clinched it. It speaks of peace, and of being in a comfortable place with good people even though you're far from home.

Your turn: What does this image say to you?

One more thing: Thank you all for your kind wishes on our son's birthday. He's tickled that people he's never met would be so generous in their spirit. The world is very much a happy place, as far as he's concerned. I'm absolutely inclined to agree, thanks to you.